Vermont ranked 4th in the country for child welfare | New
A new report places Vermont fourth in the country for general child well-being.
The annual KIDS COUNT report, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, uses 16 indicators across four categories – economic well-being, education, health, and family and community context – to produce its assessment of child well-being in all 50 states . .
Vermont has made its most notable progress in economic well-being. According to the report, 11,000 children lived in households with incomes below the official poverty line, a drop of almost 50% from 2010. The 2019 rate is the second lowest in the country after New Hampshire .
Healthcare was another bright spot, with just 2% of children without health insurance in 2019. The state also had the lowest rates of low birth weight babies at 6.6%. Obesity among young people aged 10 to 17 was 29%, below the national average of 31%.
But despite those gains, the report found that economic vulnerability is still a concern, revealing that a quarter of Vermont’s children still live in households where no parent had a full-time job.
In other areas, the report showed varying degrees of progress. Education, in particular, was a mixed bag. One of the bright spots was the state’s jump from 20th to third in the country for the number of 3- and 4-year-olds attending preschool. In 2017-2019, 64% were registered, compared to 48% in 2009-2011.
Less encouraging was the finding that more standardized test scores fell below the ‘proficiency’ threshold in 2019, with 63% of fourth grade reading scores and 62% of eighth grade math scores falling to the ‘proficiency’ level. base ”or below.
The report also showed an increase in the percentage of high school students who failed to graduate in four years, from 13% in 2011 to 16% in 2019.
While the data collected in the report predates the coronavirus pandemic, it also includes U.S. Census data collected over the past year.
Census Bureau Pulse Household Survey data collected via email surveys between April and December 2020 showed that while families in Vermont struggled during the pandemic, they fared better than the nation as a whole. .
According to the data, 12% of Vermont households overall had “little or no confidence in their ability to pay their next rent or mortgage on time,” compared to 22% nationally. By March of this year, that number had fallen to 8% in Vermont and 18% nationally.
However, data from the Vermont Pulse Survey indicates notable racial disparities, with 32% of Asian households, 23% of black or African American households, and 19% of Hispanic or Latino households reporting difficulty paying their taxes. housing. By comparison, only 11% of white households reported similar difficulties.
When it comes to access to food, 8% of Vermont households said they “sometimes or often” did not have enough food to eat. However, 14% of Black or African American households and Hispanic or Latino households reported food insecurity during the same time period.
Sarah Teel, research director for Voices for Vermont’s Children, called the disparities “glaring.”
“They, I think, are remarkable because Vermont has gone to great lengths to support assisted housing and access to food, and yet people experience things unevenly.”
Voices is an independent youth advocacy group, which partners with the Annie E. Casey Foundation for the KIDS COUNT report.
Mental health issues were also slightly more pronounced among BIPOC Vermonters. While data showed that overall 20% of adults living in households with children “felt depressed, depressed or hopeless” in March 2021, black or African American respondents reported feeling depressed at a rate of 23%, and Latino or Hispanic respondents at a rate of 31%.
Mia Schultz, NAACP chairperson for the Rutland region, said it was no surprise that black respondents felt more depressed during the pandemic.
“Black and brown children have spent the past year watching and hearing about people who look like them being murdered,” Schultz wrote in an email. “Many young people took to the streets to protest, they fought to hoist Black Lives Matter flags only to see most of the time extreme recoil and disdain for this action. They witnessed a lot of performative action and there was a lack of real systemic change. Children watch this and also absorb this trauma, and are not equipped to deal with it mentally. “
Teel said the report sends a message to policymakers to think beyond recovery, saying that simply returning to the pre-COVID status quo will not “create resilient systems” or “give people the opportunity to prosper equally “.
“Given how a crisis has such disparate impacts, it’s really clear that we need to correct systemic barriers and systemic injustices going forward,” she said.
As solutions, Teel supported the report’s recommendation to make the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the federal child tax credit permanent. Starting next month, families will receive up to $ 300 per month per child for the rest of the year.
Additionally, the foundation urged states to prioritize recovery efforts within BIPOC communities; expanding income supports for working families, such as expanding state tax credits and extending UI eligibility to contract workers; strengthen public schools; and expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act if they haven’t already.
Teel noted that federal relief efforts enacted this year have the potential to halve child poverty rates in the United States.
She said the question then becomes, “What about next year?” “
“The way we measure poverty in this country is really just a measure of cash resources,” she said. “So if we are serious about changing this indicator, then providing more cash resources will do it immediately.”
And for Teel, a key part of the process of developing effective policies is involving the communities most affected.
“I think we would like to see avenues for greater participation and contribution to policies, and for affected communities to be the ones who really offer the solutions that they know will work,” she said. “The rest, in fact, will follow from there.”
Looking ahead, Schultz said the Rutland-area NAACP is working to create a youth council that she hopes will “alleviate” the fear and isolation that BIPOC youth experience. Additionally, she said they would work in partnership with others to create more events that support local youth.
But she said the work is not just the responsibility of her organization alone.
“The whole community has an obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of all children,” she said.
jim.sabataso @ rutlandherald.com